"My worst 45 minutes ..." Leam Richardson reacts to Rotherham United's 5-0 embarrassment at Coventry City

LEAM Richardson didn't shy away from the manner of defeat after Rotherham United suffered Championship embarrassment at Coventry City on Tuesday night.

“That's the worst 45 minutes I've ever been involved in as a boss,” he said, describing events of the first-half surrender when the home side crumbled against the home side's superiority and shipped four unanswered goals.

‘Did too many of your players raise the white flag?’ he was asked.

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“That was the question at half-time,” he said. “I don't shy away from honesty. We've been well beaten.”

Rotherham United concede in the opening minutes at Coventry City. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United concede in the opening minutes at Coventry City. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United concede in the opening minutes at Coventry City. Picture: Jim Brailsford

Richardson took the job three months ago when the Millers were already eight points adrift of safety and heading for the drop.

With Rotherham growing ever shorter on numbers because of their injury problems and ever shorter on confidence because of results, the gap has since more than doubled.

The head coach, who has had previous success at Chesterfield, Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic, knew he was taking on a job that was more about revitalising his new club and fighting for League One promotion next season than saving off second-tier relegation in this one.

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“I've been here for a number of weeks,” he said. “It became clear quite quickly how many challenges we faced to move the club forward.

Rotherham United fans at Coventry City. Picture: Jim BrailsfordRotherham United fans at Coventry City. Picture: Jim Brailsford
Rotherham United fans at Coventry City. Picture: Jim Brailsford

“I'll always back myself to move a club forward because I've done it in the past,” he said. “I've got a really strong record.

“ At this level, you've got to be careful you don't open yourself up to nights like this because the level is too big.

“If we're not 100 per cent we will find ourselves on the end of things like this. It's the first time I've experienced it at this club. I'll do my best to make sure it will never happen again.”

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One player he has always been able to count on is Viktor Johansson, yet it was the goalkeeper rated by many observers as the best in the division who set the tone for what was to come.

The Swedish international caught a cross and then, after a considerable pause, inexplicably dropped the ball straight into the path of Ellis Simms who headed home for opposition eyeing a run at the play-off places.

Five minutes in, it was the sort of error the Millers, hit by so many absentees they could field only one fit recognised centre-half, simply couldn't afford to make.

Johansson raised his hand in remorse to the dugout, he signalled his contrition to the away supporters at the other end of the CBS Arena.

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After his apology, a sorry evening continued and the worst of eight straight defeats ensued.

“Viktor will bounce back from it,” Richardson said. “But you can't start games like that in the Championship.

“We were very soft. We conceded four goals in the middle of our goal. That's avoidable. It's not acceptable.

“You're trying to fix and mend and you're putting people in different positions they're not used to because that's the squad you've got, that's what you're carrying. We've got 60/70 per cent availability at a level like the Championship.

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“I'll take the blame, I'll take it on my shoulders, because I'm the man at the front of it, the man who puts them out there.

“With what we've got available, there's not a lot else we could have done.”

On 22 minutes, Joel Latibeaudiere rose unchecked to head in a corner. In the 27th minute, Simms shot into the corner. Nine minutes later, the striker completed his hat-trick with a curling effort from the edge of the area.

The gaggle of suffering Millers fans chanted 'We've had a shot' when their side finally mustered an attempt on goal after the break.

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“It's habits, isn't it?” Richardson said of the biggest loss of his tenure. “The players are used to losing and used to certain things.

“When you get into that mode, when you get a whack around the head it's a big one. Any disappointment becomes a big disappointment. Winning's a habit and losing's a habit.”

With the points in the bag, Coventry dropped off in the second half, conserving energy and taking off players to save them for another day. Rotherham raised their game but not to any level where they threatened a consolation goal.

Very late on, Johansson showed his true colours by pulling off a superb save from Matt Godden’s header but couldn’t keep out Fabio Tavares’ shot.

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The visitors, marooned in bottom spot, had almost hit back immediately from Johansson's mistake but Hakeem Odoffin failed to get his head on Chris Tiehi's cross right in front of goal.

“I think we missed a big chance at 1-1,” said Richardson. “That might have settled us down a little bit. But then it goes 2-0 and 3-0 and the game is away from you.”

The boss had erred in his assessment. The score was never 1-1.

Another error on a night full of them for the Millers.

Coventry (4-3-3): Brad Collins; Joel Latibeaudiere, Liam Kitching, Bobby Thomas, Jake Bidwell; Josh Eccles (Milan van Ewijk 58), Victor Torp (Kai Andrews 88), Liam Kelly;Kasey Palmer (Callum O'Hare 58), Ellis Simms (Fabio Tavares 82), Haji Wright (Matt Godden 58). Subs not used: Ben Wilson, Luis Binks, Jay Dasilva, Dermi Lusala.

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Rotherham (3-5-2): Viktor Johansson; Peter Kioso (Femi Seriki 83), Cameron Humphreys, Hakeem Odoffin; Andy Rinomhota (Sam Clucas 72), Jamie Lindsay, Cafu, Christ Tiehi, Shane Ferguson (Seb Revan 33); Sam Nombe (Arvin Appiah H-T), Jordan Hugill (Charlie Wyke 72). Subs not used: Dillon Phillips, Ollie Rathbone, Tom Eaves.

Goals: Simms 5, 27, 36, Latibeaudiere 22, Taveres 90 (Coventry).

Referee: John Busby (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 22,092.